New Jersey and other states have ordered many organizations to close in an effort to contain the Corona Virus contagion. As part of its effort to eliminate larger group meetings, the State announced new workplace guidelines that included the following:

All businesses or non-profits in the State, whether closed or open to the public, must accommodate their workforce, wherever practicable, for telework or work-from-home arrangements.

At times like these our hearts go out to everyone, most especially to those who have become ill or unemployed as a result of the virus. Despite all the travail, we all have faith there will be a recovery and the world will return to a more normal status. Economic and social service activity will come back.

When that happens, what lessons will NFP organizations have learned from this tragic episode? What questions should NFP board members be asking? How should strategic plans of NFPs change in response to this new reality? Some needed adjustments might include:

  1. A renewed focus on service delivery methods. It is a sad many NFPs will not be able to reopen their doors after social distancing ceases. The disruption in service and the potential loss of trained employees will be too great of a burden to overcome. The NFPs that have been able to provide some services through technological means have the best chance of surviving. Yes, it is difficult to provide certain essential services on-line, but perhaps some can. NFPs should examine each step of their operation to see which services can be delivered through technology. Many NFPs have continued to function even at a minimal level that way. Technology is not only a mitigating factor during business interruption but has been an effective cost reduction tool overall.
  2. Business interruption plans need to be kept up to date. Besides considering the increased use of technology, NFPs need to assess other aspects of their business interruption plan including the need for business interruption insurance.
  3. Succession planning and the training of middle management are mission critical. Recent events have shown how necessary succession planning and the training of middle management is. World leaders such as Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom have tested positive for the Corona Virus and are being put into isolation. Suppose he begins to show severe symptoms? While the U.K. does have a contingency plan for this eventuality, does your NFP? What happens if an executive director of an NFP tests positive and is required to go into isolation? Does the organization have enough depth of management to weather the storm? The board should insure it has a plan in place to insure continuity of management, even if (and hopefully) for a short time. The finding and training middle management can be a difficult proposition even in the best of times and gives lip service to succession planning. NFPs should step up their efforts in this area!

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